With dozens of cases of monkeypox breaking out in North America and Europe, health officials assure worried observers that this is not coronavirus 2.0.
The experts say monkeypox at this point is not a serious public health hazard. This reassurance comes despite revelations that infections are now being spread through indirect contact. The general transmission mode is through a monkey bite, scratch, or consumption of contaminated meat.
Dozens of infections are reported in the U.S, U.K., Portugal, France, Sweden, Australia, and Italy. At least 20 cases of the rare viral disease are confirmed in the U.K. alone just days after the first detection.
Officials add there are dozens more possible cases being investigated by health officials in these and other countries.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the U.K.’s Health Security Agency report investigating several cases involving gay men. They recommend gay and bi-sexual men to look for unusual rashes or lesions.
The CDC now calls the outbreak an “emerging issue,” and one expert says it’s the most significant in the history of the disease in the Western Hemisphere.
The vast majority of infections occur in nations where monkeypox is endemic, most notably in central and western Africa. These generally originate with victims encountering infected animals, and the first reported case in the U.K. is linked to a person who recently returned from Nigeria.
That came two weeks ago.
The first diagnosis in the U.S. is an adult male from Massachusetts who was in Canada recently. One more has been found in New York, and Canadian health officials are investigating 17 possible cases of monkeypox.
Several U.K. cases are confirmed in patients who did not have contact with the infected traveler. Health officials now believe there is a certain level of community transmission with this monkeypox outbreak.
The threat to the public is low, according to experts. The monkeypox virus is quite different from COVID-19 and is normally transmitted into the human population by accident. Experts say this may result in small outbreaks and sporadic infections, but it is not believed to be a wider threat.
Monkeypox was first detected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1958, and the first confirmed human infection was found in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a cousin of smallpox and results in flu-like symptoms with swelling of lymph nodes and raised poxes.